NASA picks two IU devices to go to Mars

Dec 15, 2004
NASA picks two IU devices to go to Mars

Two of the eight instruments selected to go on a Mars rover have Indiana University Bloomington geologists behind them, NASA announced yesterday.
One of the devices will provide scientists with a closer look at Mars -- literally. The other will tell us, for the first time, what Mars is actually made of.

Photo: This artist's conception shows the NASA Mars Science Laboratory rover exploring a canyon plateau. (NASA/JPL)

The rover mission is named Mars Science Laboratory and currently is slated for Earth launch in 2009, Mars arrival in 2010. The mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, which will "deliver a mobile laboratory to the surface of Mars to explore a local region as a potential habitat for past or present life," according to NASA's press release.

Despite decades of study, scientists still don't know what rocks make up Mars' surface, let alone the strata underneath. Scientists know roughly what elements exist on Mars but not how they're organized in minerals and rocks. To begin addressing that deficiency, IUB geologist David Bish is working with colleagues from Los Alamos National Laboratory, NASA's Ames Research Center and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop a miniature "x-ray diffractometer" that can parse the Martian surface. Typical x-ray diffractometers are the size of large refrigerators -- way too big for NASA's diminutive rovers. So far, the team has gotten the device down to toaster-size, which is, remarkably, still too big.

"We've got to get the diffractometer down to the size of a Coke can," said Bish, a recent Los Alamos emigre who holds the Haydn Murray Chair in applied clay mineralogy. "I think we can do it in time to get the device on a 2009 mission."

IUB sedimentologist Juergen Schieber's contribution to Mars Science Lab will be a wide-angle microscopic camera for imaging rocks, soil, frost and ice at resolutions never before achieved. Schieber will be working with Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems on the project.

Source: Indiana University

Explore further: Life 'not as we know it' possible on Saturn's moon Titan

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

MAVEN spacecraft completes first deep dip campaign

Feb 19, 2015

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution has completed the first of five deep-dip maneuvers designed to gather measurements closer to the lower end of the Martian upper atmosphere.

Life on Europa? Scientists ponder the possibilities

Feb 19, 2015

When Galileo viewed Jupiter through his telescope in 1610, he saw four dim objects near it that he assumed were stars. Repeated observations revealed that these "stars" orbited Jupiter like our own moon circles ...

Mars rover nearing marathon achievement

Feb 12, 2015

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is nearing a location on Mars at which its driving distance will surpass the length of a marathon race.

3-D printers to make human body parts? It's happening

Feb 04, 2015

It sounds like something from a science fiction plot: So-called three-dimensional printers are being used to fashion prosthetic arms and hands, jaw bones, spinal-cord implants - and one day perhaps even living human body ...

Recommended for you

Could the Milky Way become a quasar?

Feb 27, 2015

A quasar is what you get when a supermassive black hole is actively feeding on material at the core of a galaxy. The region around the black hole gets really hot and blasts out radiation that we can see billions ...

Galactic dinosaurs not extinct

Feb 27, 2015

One of the biggest mysteries in galaxy evolution is the fate of the compact massive galaxies that roamed the early Universe.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.